Those of you lucky enough to have attended a Pickleball is Great (PIG) tournament certainly had a smooth-running, fun pickleball day! Our pickleball community is grateful for Mike, Gigi, and Cathy. Here's the background of their business, and how it has expanded, followed by four interview questions.
Mike Hoxie followed the recommendation from owners of Pickleballtournaments.com and founded Pickleball Is Great in 2016. Using this as a side job, Mike started with 6 tournaments (held in Oregon and Washington) that first year and completed 12 tournaments in 2017. By 2018, Pickleball Is Great had 28 tournaments on its schedule and had expanded to Alaska, Arizona, California, and Hawaii. Mike quit his managerial job with Kroger that August and went full-time with Pickleball Is Great. Due to the steady growth demand, last year (2019) Mike hired Gigi Guerra and Kathy Rambousek as Regional Tournament Directors. We started 2020 with our first East Coast tournament (Florida) and were prepared to complete 60+ tournaments. We had completed 9 tournaments before the COVID-19 pandemic happened. We are happy to say that only a few tournaments have been canceled. Most of the affected tournaments have postponed to a later date. Pickleball Is Great focuses on delivering a great player experience. Our business partners include clubs, cities, non-profits, and individuals. Coupling national vendor support with detailed planning ensures a smooth-running tournament. All of us at Pickleball Is Great are not only tournament directors but also tournament players. Our continued growth reflects our commitment to enhance the player experience and to share our love for this great game of pickleball.
1. How did you get started in Pickleball? Are you finding time to get out on the courts?
Michael (4.5 level) started 10 years ago with his family, Gigi (4.0 level) started 8 years ago in Paso Robles, CA and Kathy (4.5 level) started in the 70s when her family built a multi-court in their backyard. In 2019, the expansion of the business made for a balancing act between planning, traveling and running tournaments, and being able to play on the courts. The best part of the balancing act has been adding so many new pickleball friends to our lists! We get to meet and play with some wonderful tournament players and organizers we may not have met otherwise! We look forward to 2020 as we continue to coordinate spreading the work between tournament directors. This balance will allow more time on the courts as well as more opportunities for tournament play.
2. What is the most challenging aspect of running a successful tournament?
It goes without saying, the COVID-19 pandemic has been the largest challenge in 2020. We know we are all in this together and thank our players for their patience and understanding through this time. With that being said, the most challenging aspect has been the weather. We have experienced cold and extreme heat, heavy rains, and lightning this past year. We like to provide the best players experience and keep everyone safe, however, the weather is something that is out of our control. Our strength during these challenges is our years of experience and network of resources to overcome these issues.
3. What has been one place you have absolutely LOVED having a tournament? Why did you like it?
Bainbridge Island Founders Tournament on Bainbridge Island, Washington! This is where pickleball all began! Bainbridge Island Founders Tournament featured a tour to the original court, where we played with wooden paddles. We were honored to meet Barney McCullum and to have him sign our paddles. The historic society is a fantastic and fun group of volunteers! It is a must-go-to in a pickleball players tournament list! https://founderstournament.com/
4. How has your tournament business changed over the years?
We have seen a reduction in volunteer support and the increased need for referees. We are working very hard to find ways to be more efficient than in previous years to minimize any shortages. We are so thankful for volunteers that step up to the tasks whether they volunteer before or after playing, are injured, intimidated to play in a tournament but want to be involved or just want to give back to the sport. We want to encourage people to learn to referee. One of our goals is to provide more training prior to the tournament so that referees are more comfortable with their skills. We are grateful for all our volunteers/referees who give their time to help. They are an integral part of the success of any tournament!
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